Los Gatos expands housing advisory board to include residents
The corner of North Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street in Los Gatos. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As the debate over Los Gatos’ plan to densify housing continues to escalate, the town is asking the public to join the policy-making process.

Los Gatos is seeking up to four residents to serve on its housing element advisory board, which will help develop strategies and policies to accommodate new housing required by state law. The city aims to have the board begin meeting in about two months.

The town changed its plan amid criticism for trying to establish a nine-member advisory board without input from the public.

Councilmember Matthew Hudes pushed back on the plan to exclude members of the public at a meeting earlier this month, urging his colleagues to include two to four residents on the board.

“Why aren’t we following the process that we did (the last time) and opening this to public appointment?” Hudes asked at the Aug. 3 meeting. He also criticized the decision to list the item on the consent calendar, which allows the council to vote without discussion. The council voted 3-2 in June to prevent residents from pulling items off the calendar for discussion.

“My understanding is that the consent calendar is to be used for items that are not controversial,” Hudes said. “And I think this is the definition of controversy.”

The advisory board, made up of councilmembers, planning commissioners and residents, will be tasked to come up with plans for building 1,993 new housing units by 2023. This is required by the state to ensure local cities plan for affordable housing.

The Planning Commission and Town Council will review recommendations before seeking state approval. The goal is to have an updated policy by Jan. 31, 2023, officials said.

Los Gatos, a Silicon Valley town that’s barely grown for 20 years, is also in the process of transforming its housing density to make room for mixed-use developments and multi-family housing options such as duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.

Town officials recommend adding 3,783 new housing units by 2040. While the number is almost double what Los Gatos needs to accommodate projected population growth, officials say the plan is necessary to keep up with the state’s requirement—and to make Los Gatos more inclusive to non-white, less-affluent residents.

The plan has led to some heated debates, as residents are split on how the town should densify its housing.

“I read over 450 comments about the draft general plan, almost all of which related to housing,” Hudes said at the meeting. “It’s essential for us to hear from residents about the future of our town and its opportunity to provide housing opportunities to advance diversity.”

Two residents, Susan Moore Brown and Ryan Rosenberg, have already been chosen to sit on the advisory board. Community Development Director Joel Paulson said they were selected because of their experience and familiarity with plans for housing density. Brown and Rosenberg currently serve on the town’s general plan update committee.

Three residents spoke in support of Hudes’ suggestion at the meeting, with one resident saying he’d apply for the position. Two residents also submitted written comments opposing the nine-member advisory board.

“While I acknowledge the experience of those individuals are valuable, I believe it’s also valuable to include new eyes,” resident Lee Quintana told the council.

The council unanimously passed Hudes’ suggestions, which also ask the town to increase its outreach efforts and allow residents more opportunities to comment at the advisory board’s meetings.

Los Gatos residents can submit an application to join the advisory board here by 4 p.m. on Sept. 10. The town plans to conduct interviews by Sept. 21.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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